Ricinus communis:Beneficial and Toxic Plant

The castor oil plant Ricinus communis is also called Arand or wonder tree. It belongs to family Euphorbiaceae. It is originated from Africa and now China and Brazil are major producers of this plant.

CO- Workers Names: Amna Aslam, Ayesha Bibi,M.Saad Ullah, Zain ul abidin, Safura Bibi,Dr.Maria Naqvi,Dr.Athar Mahmood.

The name ricin is given by P.H. Stillmark in 1828. Plant is native to India. From ancient times castor seeds are used for the extraction of castor oil in medicinal industry. Stem is green red and purple in color, when castor is getting old it turns grey like. Flowers are pyramids like a spike. Leaves are palmate with 5 to 11 lobs. Fruits are globular spiny capsule which becomes hard when ripened. Roots, leaves and seed oil of Ricinus communis have been used for the treatment of inflammation, liver disorder and hypoglycemic. Stem of Ricinus communis contain anticancerous, antidiabetic and antiprotozoal activity. The toxic principle of Ricinus communis is due to protein ricin. The percentage of ricin protein in seeds is 5%. Seeds are rich source of proteins after oil extraction which are used as a feed and detoxification for sheep, cattle, and chicken. The oil is rich in fatty acid ricinoleic acid which is unique due to its chemical properties.


Leaves are alternate, ovate, yellowish, purplish petioles when young. Flowers are Large, monoecious, female flowers are sessile. Fruit is green, weak, and blunt. Seeds are smooth and flattened and shining. Castor stem is round and green. Roots are light in weight.


The toxicity of the plant can vary depending upon the type of plant involve, amount ingested and sometimes the parts of plant material ingested. The poison of the Ricinus communis can effect to animal, insect and plants. When seed is ingested without chewing it may pass through the digestive track without releasing ricin. Poisoning occurs when an animal ingest seeds by chewing. The castor oil is not toxic to the humans either internally or externally. Our cells works by assembling various amino acid into protein according to message (it receive from messenger RNA). These proteins are required for the structure, function and regulation of their body tissue and organ. Ribosomes responsible for the synthesis of these proteins. Ricin on entering the cell inactivates these ribosomes so preventing proteins synthesize. This result in tissue damage causing vital organs to collapse leading to death.

Harmful impacts

Ricin has dangerous interest and it has history of military, criminal and terroristic use. It has been used by different nations and was included in different weapons to programs during World War II that is why ricin was a prohibited substance. In past ricin was found in threat letters to members of US senate and White House (2003-2004). In 1978, Georgi Markov a Bulgarian writer and journalist died after he was attacked by man with an umbrella. The umbrella had been riggid to inject a poison ricin pellet under Markov,s skin. It also cause vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, cough, hypotension and in severe cases it also cause death.

Poisoning of humans and animals with R. communis by the main toxic component of the plant, ricin, has been known since ancient times. Recent cases in Europe, Asia and America with fertilizers containing R.communis show that castor cake detoxification is clearly problematic and not always complete. Among all reported plant poisonings, cases of ricin poisoning in humans are rare, except for suicide. Although animal cases are poorly studied, animal poisoning has been observed from either unprocessed plant seeds or processed castor cake products.

Ethnobotanical Uses

Castor oil is widely used for catharatic and also for lubrication and illumination. This oil used in products like paints, varnishes, fabrics, leather, fly-paper, printing inks, polishes, waxes, pharmaceuticals and insecticidal formulations.

Castor cake is used as manure in all over the world as it is rich in nitrogen, and other minerals as it suitable for paddy sugarcane, rice, tobacco etc. Insecticidal activity is due to the presence of alkaloid ricinin in them. Leaves are used in the form of poultice on sores, boils and swellings. Pounded leaves are used to give relief in caries, and are applied over guinea-worm sores to extract the worm. Root bark is used as powerful purgative. Dried stems and seed hulls constitute a highly combustible fuel. From this it can be concluded that R. communis is a very important medicinal herb that requires further research to use its healing properties. It is a source of toxic chemicals such as ricin A, B, and C which have anti-tumor effects. There are also alkaloids and glycosides that are useful for formulations as anti-inflammatory, pain reliever, antipyretic, heart tonic and anti-asthma, and others.

Other Uses of castor

Ricinus communis is also economically important for castor oil production. It is the source of many industrial, medical, and cosmetic products. Castor oil is used as a flavoring in supplements, candy. Castor wax for polishing, carbon paper. Castor oil protects rice and wheat crops from rotting. The seeds of Ricinus communis are the source of the spice called Ogiri in Nigeria. This spice is used to improve eyesight. Vegetable oils are effective in treating ringworm, wrinkles and acne. Coconut oil with castor oil is used to promote hair growth. In agriculture, jatropha is used as organic fertilizer because of its N content. The detoxified castor pulp is used as a farm for animals. Detoxification can be done by autoclaving. The compressed sludge remaining after detoxification from oil production is used industrially as a by-product of organic fertilizers and as low-value animal feed.

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